In a 2008 Weekend America article, by Krissy Clark titled, 'A Native American Take On Independence', the featured story leads off with an account from a Mandan-Hidatsa tribal member named, Charles Hudson, from the Fort Berthold Reservation located in North Dakota. In the article, he describes a little bit what it was like going to the local public high school when he was younger,
I cannot help but reflect upon the United States’ history and the Declaration of Independence, in which labels Native people as ”merciless Indian Savages”. After closer review, I realized just how different my perspective of this holiday was, and acknowledged that the majority of most Americans might not share my feelings on this particular holiday. The notion of civilizing the “merciless Indian Savages“ by implementing the ideology of, "Kill the Indian, save the man" still rings a little too close to home for me, which is the theme of a previous post titled, "Diary of a Native Skeptic". The effects left behind on reservations across the country from the federal governments’ attempts to re-educate or “enlighten” Native children by forcing them into churches and boarding schools, in some attempt to deprogram, and strip them of their cultural ways, has left many generations without a sense of personal identity.
and he continues,
Around the time of the early 1800's, the residents of American Indian reservations were under some strict federal rules. Performing ceremonial or traditional dances required written permission. However, objections to any kind of communal gatherings that were to take place on the Fourth of July were not specified. So, at first glance, it would appear as if certain tribal communities were just being patriotic with their elaborate celebrations.
In the following quote, Krissy Clark, gives us an example from her article for the Weekend America public radio website, describing just how Native people learned to be creative in their struggles with these limitations on their way of life,
After re-telling this story in the light of this seemingly new unique perspective to my Mother, she recalled something about her grandfather, “They never knew what day was his actual date of birth, but they celebrated it on the Fourth of July.” It is hard for me to imagine that, just less than a few generations ago, this was the way of life for Native people in America. Just to provide a little perspective of American Indian history, it was not until 1924 that Native Americans were named United States citizens.
For many tribes in America, the Fourth of July is a day of celebration with its' own unique cultural flare, often consisting of ceremonies, rodeos, and powwows.
In contrast, as Gregory Crossett, and co-author, Kathleen Crossett also mention in their Ezine article titled "Do Native American Indians Celebrate the 4th of July?", in 1776, one of the first orders that George Washington administered was the destruction of Onondaga villages that were determined to be “in the way of the new country“, so expectantly, not all tribes may celebrate the Fourth with the same amount of shared enthusiasm.
However, historically speaking, Native Americans have the highest record of military service per capita when compared to other any other group of Americans, so Independence Day also provides an excellent opportunity to honor many of those veterans currently serving and the one's from the past, more specifically, the “Navajo code-talkers” that served during World War II.
In the American Forces Press Service news article, written by Rudi Williams titled, "Marine Creates Native American Powwow to Honor Veterans", the co-founder of the Native American Veteran's Pow Wow Committee, Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Shawn Arnold. points out the significance of these tribal ceremonies and traditions,
So, after taking a closer look at some of the reasons behind why some people on American reservations celebrate the Fourth of July, the bigger question is not, “Why should Native Americans celebrate Independence Day?”, it's more like…
“Why shouldn’t we?”